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The Grammar of Gender Ideology: The Press Coverage of Sexual Violence in Turkey and the Passive Voice

Sevda Numanbayraktaroğlu

Abstract

This research critically examines the Turkish press coverage of sexual violence during the growing hegemony of neoliberal governmentality in Turkey. Through a critical discourse analysis of the newspaper Hürriyet’s reports on rape cases during the last 20 years, I aim to decipher the structures of power and gender regimes reflected in these reports. To this end, I critically examine the levels of agency and responsibility that reporters attribute to perpetrators and survivors of rape through the use of passive and active voice. The analysis reveals that the media reports of rape characterized male rapists as aggressive criminal agents who were helpless against the police and the legal system. Female survivors, on the other hand, were cast as autonomous agents who became helpless victims of rape (sometimes due to their naiveté) and reclaimed their agency with the help of the police and the legal system. The results point to a transformation of the traditional conceptions of rape and the mainstream gender ideologies as the outcome of two oppositional forces: neoliberal familism and feminist ideology.

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Acknowledgments

I thank Özlem Şahin, Özlem Karagöz, Yağmur Aksoy, Ecehan Fındık, and Cemre Uluyürek for their support throughout the project.

Introduction

1In this article, I explore the gender regimes in Turkey as evidenced in the media discourses of sexual violence of the last twenty years (1997-2017). To that end, I critically examine the levels of agency and responsibility that reporters attribute to perpetrators and survivors of rape through the use of passive and active voice. With this analysis, I aim to contribute to our understanding of the role of the media discourse in the constitution and maintenance of gender regimes and gendered individual subjectivities in Turkey.

2The Turkish sociocultural context of the last twenty years has been marked by a growing hegemony of neoliberal governmentality. Neoliberalism’s capacity for implementation in novel sociocultural contexts via its heterogeneity and plasticity as well as its influence on culture and subjectivity are well documented in political, sociological, and anthropological literatures (Bourdieu 1998; Foucault 2008; Harvey 2007). The unfortunate and at times conflict-laden marriage of individualism-oriented neoliberalism with neo-conservative familism in Turkey (Kandiyoti 2016) speaks to this composite and polymorphous character of neoliberal practice.

3As a ‘conduct of conduct’ (Foucault 2008), neoliberalism promotes a particular conception of the human subject that pushes modernism’s ideal of individualism to its extreme limits. Freed from all traditional and social ties, this subject is understood as an autonomous, individualized, self-directing, decision-making entrepreneur who is also responsible for the development and ’value’ of herself (Bauman, Raud 2015; Beck, Beck-Gernsheim 2002). She is a subject that yearns to become the best version of herself. Some researchers find hope for an unprecedented individual agency through such a change (Appadurai 1996; Gergen 2000; Hermans, Hermans-Konopka 2010). Yet still others demonstrate how neoliberalism, while recasting individuals as commodities, normalizes selfishness and cynicism, and pushes individualism to its autistic limits (Cohen 1999; Scheper-Hughes 2003). They caution that as neoliberal subjectivity becomes hegemonic, it replaces social solidarity with a concern for the self and its significant others (Layton 2010; Türken et al. 2016).

4In the case of Turkey, the socially harmful effects of neoliberalism were counterbalanced by the promotion of the ’strong Turkish family’ as the ideal (Kandiyoti 2016; Yazıcı 2012). This discursive shift to neo-conservative familism provided a remedy for the adverse social effects of both the neoliberal economic and social policies and the neoliberal individualism. In line with the traditional sensibilities in Turkey, the neo-conservative discourse places the family at the center of values. Within the sacredness of the family unit, furthermore, it rejects the equality of men and women. Based on a belief that men and women are created with different aptitudes, it advocates a partnership of complementary differences (see, for example, İzgi 2008).

5In this divinely ordained partnership, men are deemed to be responsible for the public sphere and assigned the role of protectors of women and children (Babül 2015; Yazıcı 2012). Women, on the other hand, are cast as responsible for the wellbeing of the family and children, and hence ultimately the creation of a pious generation. For the fulfillment of such responsibility, they are advised to be virtuous, modest, docile, and pleasant. At the same time, however, they are encouraged to better themselves in the ’art of child-rearing’ as well as Islamic knowledge (see, for example, Atasoy 2009; İzgi 2008). Influenced by the neoliberal ideal, the ‘good women’ of the neo-conservative discourse is an informed and educated yet paradoxically docile and dependent agent who puts the wellbeing of her husband, children, and religious community ahead of her own.

6Mainstream media has been a central instrument of dissemination of the neoliberal ideology (Türken et al. 2016) and the neo-conservative familism in Turkey. The extensive literature on media and ideology demonstrates the key role that media discourses play in the management of public opinion, the perpetuation of power relations, and the constitution of individual subjectivities (Belligüçük 2004; Fairclough 2001; Nagar 2016; Saktanber 1995; Van Dijk 1985). Media discourses are powerful political tools because they not only reflect but also refract reality imbuing subjectivities with new categories of perception and thought (Van Dijk 1995). On the one hand, media discourses reflect the sensibilities of their audiences and provide clues as to what is deemed to be important and newsworthy by the news outlets. On the other hand, journalistic language has the power to represent events from particular ideological perspectives and influence the perception of the general public. As such, media discourses can be instrumental in the maintenance and construction of power structures within society. Journalistic discourse sometimes, as Alexander (1999) aptly put, is "violence that disguises itself as benign objectivity" (p. 299).

7In this research, I explore the role of the media discourses in the dissemination of gender norms in neoliberal Turkey. Through a critical discourse analysis of the news reports on sexual violence that were published in the newspaper the Hürriyet between 1997-2017, I identify gender ideologies reflected in these reports. Ideological content in journalistic discourse manifests itself through various discursive and linguistic tools such as the introduction of a piece of information at positions of prominence (e.g., headlines), choice of lexical items (e.g., ‘terrorists’ vs ‘freedom fighters’), or strategic use of semantic and syntactic elements (e.g., voice). I analyze the active and passive sentence structures in media reports of rape to determine the characterizations of female rape survivors and male rapists in these reports and the gender ideologies that they reflect.

8In what follows, I, first, discuss the functions of passivation in news media and briefly introduce the Turkish passive. Then, I present four complementary studies that analyze the use of passive voice in the Hürriyet’s reports on rape cases. Following a review of the findings, I conclude with a discussion of the implications of these results for the relationship between gender regimes and media discourse in Turkey.

Functions of the Passive Voice in News Media

9The passive is a construction that transforms the surface structures of a sentence by elevating its object to the subject position (e.g., I read the book being changed to the book was read). Passivization rearranges the major constituents in a sentence, allows for the subject of the sentence to be deleted or deemphasized, and shifts the sentence focus from the agent of the act to its patient (Abraham 2006; Baratta 2008). With such a transformative feature, the passive is situated at the intersection of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, and has been extensively studied from various approaches to language.

10Whenever reporters produce news stories, they make decisions about the linguistic tools that they are going to use to convey the information that they intend to share. Henley et. al. (1995: 68) report that in the fifty newspapers published between 1981-1991 in the United States, reporters most frequently chose to use the passive voice in their reports of sexual violence with a passive to active sentence ratio of 2. These choices are guided by the ideological allegiances of reporters and news outlets. Furthermore, they also answer to the social, political, and historical practices in the larger sociocultural context. Journalists consider their audiences’ sensibilities, interests, and ideologies in constructing story structures as well as using language (Busa 2014; Cotter 2010; Richardson 2007). Therefore, media discourses are valuable resources to inquire about gender regimes in particular cultural contexts.

11Guides to journalistic writing advise reporters to keep their stories short and simple by using concise language that utilizes active verbs and avoids unnecessary and unfamiliar words (Busa 2014: 101). Accordingly, in the media discourse, there is a tendency to use the active voice rather than the passive voice for its vividness, directness, and conciseness. Passive voice, on the other hand, is usually seen as wordy, static, and cognitively more demanding (Cotter 2010).

12Nonetheless, motivated by various concerns, the passive is regularly used in the news media. In media discourse, passivization, for example, is recommended when the ‘whom’ of the story (e.g., an important social figure) is more important than its ‘who’ (e.g., the person who hit her car). Furthermore, the literature highlights cases where textual, contextual, and semantic constraints might require the use of passive voice, such as when:

  • the object is the topic of discussion and the writer needs to use passive voice to bring about textual cohesion to guide the reader from one idea to the next (Baratta 2008);

  • the subject is implicitly understood, therefore redundant;

  • the subject is unknown, irrelevant, or anonymous (Busa 2014);

  • what is being reported on is a common assumption;

  • politeness rules dictate it (Emeksiz 2015: 19);

  • there are space restrictions (Wanner 2009).

13Most importantly for this paper, however, reporters can use passive constructions for several ideological reasons. Let me elaborate.

14First, passives permit speakers/authors to deemphasize the agent or delete it altogether. In other words, passives demote the agent to the background creating an effect called the ‘impersonal prose’ which serves to distance the writer or speaker from the text (Reilly et al. 2005). In the academic discourse, for example, passive voice puts an epistemic distance between the source of the information and the writer, thereby creating an illusion of objectivity (Emeksiz 2015: 19; Wanner 2009)

15In the case of the media reports on sexual violence, however, passivization can be and has been adopted to obscure the agency and minimize the responsibility of ideologically favored or socially powerful persons or groups (e.g., ‘mistakes were made’) (Busa 2014; Fowler et al. 1979; Van Dijk 1995). Linguistically, the causal link in an event is established and responsibility is assigned by naming the agent of the act in the subject position of a sentence. Accordingly, the use of the passive voice diffuses the responsibility of the rapist for the rape and presents harm without guilt (Lamb 1991: 251).

16Second, passivization entails subjectification, and hence topicalization of a non-agent (Abraham 2006; Wanner 2009). That is to say, the patient of the original active sentence gets reified to subjecthood and is promoted to the topic position (Givón 2001; Slobin 1994). As such, the passive voice directs the emphasis or salience towards the patient of the act, relieving the agent from the focus.

17Passivization not only deflects attention away from the agent but also highlights the patient of the act as a passive receiver. Passive voice, then, may be used to depict groups or individuals as powerless recipients to deprive them of their agency. As a function of ideology, writers may use active and passive voice consistently, for example, to perpetuate the stereotypes of minority social groups as agents of negative acts and non-responsible for positive acts (Fowler 1991; Van Dijk 1991). Similarly, through the use of passive voice, women can be represented as powerless victims of others’ acts who need protection (Lamb 1991).

18Moreover, the use of the passive voice attributes responsibility to the patient for the act. Indeed, social psychological research shows that the passive voice tends to direct causal attribution towards the patient and away from the agent (Bohner 2001; Henley et al. 1995; LaFrance, Hahn 1994; Lamb 1991).

19Third, writers’ lexical, grammatical, and rhetorical choices convey their ideological commitments and can be used to construct identities. The choice to use the passive or active voice can situate writers "with regards to ideational positioning – which involves taking particular stances towards one’s field of study" (Ivanic, Camps 2001: 14). In that sense, even though agentless passives de-emphasize the original subject, they can reveal the stance and personal information about the writer (Baratta 2008: 1412).

20Writers’ choice of voice is guided by whether the author finds the whom or the who of the act as more important. Such a choice is ideologically informed. In that sense, voice reveals writers’ and news outlets’ (as reports are multi-authored texts) underlying beliefs about the act in question (such as who is responsible for the act and how much harm is suffered) (Frazer, Miller 2009). Bohner (2001) has shown that the tendency to report sexual assault in passive voice increased as the writers’ acceptance of rape myths increased.

21Finally, discourses frame events to construct particular interpretations of the reality and influence the way listeners/readers construe the world around them (Fairclough 1992; Van Dijk 1995). Reporting of acts in the passive voice contributes to such framing. Henley et al. (1995) found that people who read reports of rape conveyed in passive voice displayed more negative attitudes towards the rape victims and were more accepting of the rape-myths and physical abuse of women. The passive voice led readers to belittle the harm suffered by the victim and underrate the responsibility of the rapists (Henley et al. 1995; LaFrance, Hahn 1994).

22The use of the passive voice both reflects and refracts reality imbuing subjectivities with particular ideological and evaluative schemes. The passive is a linguistic tool in the service of media discourse that may be used for the maintenance of public opinion, dissemination of ways of being, and transformation of societies.

23This is not to say that the use of the passive voice is always a conscious choice. In fact, in some cases, it might simply reflect habitual ways of speaking and thinking of the reporter and the social group that they belong to (Billig 2008; Henley et al. 1995). Nevertheless, whether they are conscious or habitual choices, the sentence voice used in the news reports of rape inform us about the ideologies adopted by the reporters and provide us with an opportunity to study the gender regimes of the society in which these reports are generated.

The Passive in Turkish

  • 1 The passive morpheme in Turkish has three morphologically conditioned variants:
    -n attaches to stems (...)

24In Turkish, passivization is achieved by a morphosyntactic rule, where a phonologically conditioned variant of the morpheme [-Il] is attached to transitive and intransitive verb stems (Göksel, Kerslake 2005).1 The morpheme turns the transitive stem into an intransitive one, and the intransitive one into a subjectless predicate, while promoting the patient of the act to the status of the subject of the new construction:

251. Adam kadına tecavüz et-ti.
Man woman-DAT rape do-PAST
“The man raped the woman.”

262. Kadına tecavüz ed-il-di.
Woman-DAT rape do-PASS-PAST
“The woman was raped.”

  • 2 The agent in a passive construction can be also expressed by attaching the suffix -ca to the agenti (...)

27Although agentless passives as in 2 are much more common in Turkish (Göksel, Kerslake 2005: 149), it is possible to express the agent of the act in a tarafından (‘by’) phrase:2 

283. Kadın-a adam tarafından tecavüz ed-il-di.
Woman-DAT man by rape do-PASS-PAST
“The woman was raped by the man.”

29Turkish also permits impersonal passives. These passives most often occur with an aorist marking and express a general property of a particular entity (Göksel, Kerslake 2005; Özsoy 2009) as in example 4.

304. Köpek-ler-den korkulur.
Dog-PLU-ABL scare-PASS-AOR
“One can be scared of dogs.”

31In addition to passives marked by the morpheme [-il], experiencer subject verbs such as kız- (anger), bak- (look), kork- (fear), saşır- (surprise) are also used to indicate the patient status of the typical active constructions (Özsoy 2009) as in examples 5 and 6.

325. Kadın tecavüz-e uğra-dı.
Woman rape-DAT stop by-PAST
“The woman was raped.”

336. Kadın adam-ın tecavüz-ü-ne uğra-dı.
Woman man-POSS rape-POSS-DAT stop by-PAST
“The woman was raped by the man.”

34As there are different types of passives, assignment of different levels of agency and responsibility is possible (Slobin 1994). Active form assigns the highest level of agency and responsibility to the actor. The level of agency and hence culpability of the actor decreases and the patients’ level of agency increases as we move from ’regular passives with by phrases’ to ’agentless passives marked with experiencer subject verbs’ such as ’tecavüze uğra-’ (be/get raped) (Stanley, Robins 1977). (More on this below.)

35Through four complementary studies, I investigate the use of active and passive constructions in Hürriyet’s reports of sexual violence over the last twenty years. Ultimately, my aim with this research is twofold. First, I decipher the characterizations of rape survivors and rapists in news reports of rape as evidenced in reporters’ use of the active and passive voice. Second, based on the insight generated by this research I want to understand the forces affecting social conceptions of rape and gender ideologies in Turkey.

Methods

36With the assumption that discourses of print media reflect cultural norms surrounding rape and are informed by gender ideologies of the reporters and news outlets, I analyzed the Hürriyet’s media coverage of rape within the last twenty years through four complementary studies. Study 1 explored the basic features of the news reports and their distribution across years. Studies 2 and 3 focused on the agency and responsibility attributed to rape survivors and rapists as they are reflected in the reporters’ use of passive and active voice. Finally, Study 4 investigated characteristics of the verbs that were used to present the actions of the survivors and rapists in reports of rape.

Study 1: The Where, Who, and When of the News Reports of Rape (1997-2017)

37To study the social interest in and the social consciousness regarding sexual violence in Turkey, I investigated the rates and characteristics of the media reports of rape published in the Turkish daily newspaper the Hürriyet between the years of 1997 and 2017. The Hürriyet was chosen as the data source because it is one of the top three best-selling newspapers in Turkey with the longest circulation history.

The data

38The corpus was created through a search of the word tecavüz (rape) in the Hürriyet’s online archives. News stories and editorials that addressed rape cases, as well as rape in general, were downloaded and transformed to .docx format. Multiple reports of the same cases were collected in single files to prevent the same case being processed multiple times in the analysis. The resulting corpus included 5,951 news reports and editorials.

39QDA Miner 5.0.21 was used to analyze the data. The data was coded for eight variables: Region (location of rape); Year (of publication); Rapist (age and sex); Survivor (age and sex); Type of News; and Multiple Reports (number of times the same case was reported on).

Results and Discussion

Number of Reports Published Between 1997-2017

40The first question I wanted to answer was if there was a change in the number of news that were published throughout the years. As Table 1 shows, the number of reports increased steadily from 30 reports in 1997 to 378 in 2017. The data also shows that there was a significant increase in the number of reports from 2005 (238 reports) to 2006 (342 reports). This increase continued in 2007 (469 reports) and 2008 (524 reports). While the initial rate of 18% increase from 1997 to 2008 was not maintained in the following years, 2006 nevertheless appears to be an important milestone in the reporting of sexual violence. Furthermore, the increase in rape reports in the news media marks the prominence that the sexual violence cases gained in public discourses and reflects a change in the social attitude towards rape.

41This steep increase in the number of reports is not coincidental. Rather, it is the outcome of activism carried out by women’s rights organizations and the public outrage concerning the rape and murder of Güldünya Tören in 2004. Within the same year, the Hürriyet started a campaign against domestic violence. And on 15 October 2007, in collaboration with the Modern Education Foundation (ÇEV), Istanbul Municipality, and the European Union, the Hürriyet instituted a hotline for domestic violence. By January 2008, the hotline had responded to 3,713 calls. The first couple of years of the hotline was especially publicized through various campaigns and by the time the hotline was transferred into the care of Federation of Women’s Organizations in Turkey in 2016, it had received more than 46,000 calls. The increase in the number of Hürriyet’s reports from 2007 onwards is a result of this hotline and women’s rights groups’ activism. It reflects the heightened sensitivity of the public towards rape as a crime.

Table 1. Frequencies of reports published between 1997-2017.

Sample Size

5951 (%)

1997

0.5

1998

2

1999

2

2000

2

2001

2

2002

3

2003

3

2004

4

2005

4

2006

6

2007

8

2008

9

2009

6

2010

6

2011

5

2012

7

2013

6

2014

5

2015

7

2016

8

2017

6

Total

100,0

Types of Reports Published

42Table 2 shows the frequencies of different kinds of reports published in the last twenty years. Sixty percent of the reports were reports of actual rape cases. Twenty-five percent were editorials that discussed the issue of rape. Thirteen percent of the reports focused on the legal issues surrounding rape. Finally, two percent of the reports were devoted to the discussion of rape as it is depicted and discussed in movies, TV series, literature, and academic meetings. The results speak to the increasingly prevalent status of sexual violence in the social consciousness.

Table 2. Frequencies of different types of media reports.

Sample size

5954 (%)

Reports of rape & attempted rape cases

60

Rape in general

25

Reports on rape as a legal issue

13

Rape in entertainment, literature, and academia

2

Total

100,0

Reported Rape Cases and the Countries of their Occurrence

43Table 3 summarizes the country-wise distribution of the rape and attempted rape cases that were reported. Unsurprisingly, most of the news stories (79%) were concerned with rapes that took place in Turkey.

Table 3. Geographical locations of reported rape cases.

Sample size

3532 (%)

Turkey

79

Europe, America, & Australia

15

The Middle East & Asia

5

Africa

1

Total

100,0

Types of Rape Cases

44Tables 4 and 5 summarize genders and ages of the survivors and rapists of the reported cases. In most of the reported rape cases, survivors were adult women (46%), followed by teenage girls (23%), and preteen girls (15%). Most rapists, on the other hand, were adult men and teenage boys (94%). Hürriyet’s reports of sexual violence portray rape to be committed predominantly by males against females.

45Please note that Tables 4 and 5 do not reflect the actual characteristics of rape cases that took place in Turkey between the years of 1997-2017. Rather, the distribution summarizes the rape cases that the reporters and the news agency found newsworthy. In other words, this distribution has more to do with the preference of the newspaper to report dominantly on cases where women were raped by men and under-report cases with other perpetrators and survivors. Reasons for this preference ranges from reporters’ concerns about the public’s sensitivities to their attribution of relative insignificance to other types of survivors. In the twenty years’ worth of reports of sexual violence, for example, I came across only 9 news stories of rape (0.3%) where the survivors were identified as members of sexual and gender minorities.

Table 4. The survivors in the reports of sexual violence.

Sample Size

3532 (%)

Adult Women (age > 18)

46

Teenage Girls (age > 14)

23

Girls (age ≤ 14)

15

Boys (age ≤ 14)

5

Teenage Boys (age > 14)

2

Adult Women with Mental Disability

2

Adult Men (age > 18)

2

Other

5

Total

100

Table 5. The rapists in the reports of sexual violence.

Sample size

3532 (%)

Men & Teenage Boys

94

Unknown

4

Women & Teenage Girls

1

Other

1

Total

100

46These findings reflect a growing public interest in and sensitivity towards sexual violence of specific types. They also highlight a shift in the social attitude towards rape from a stigmatizing crime that damages women’s honor and needs to be hidden to one that deserves public discussion. Owing to the efforts of women’s organizations, rape had become an important topic of public discourse in 2006 and it remains so today.

Study 2: The Verb Tecavüz (rape) in the News Reports of Rape

47In the second study, I examined the social conceptions of agency and responsibility attributed to rape survivors and rapists as evidenced in reporters’ use of the verb tecavüz (rape) at different positions of prominence in the news stories.

The Data

48One hundred cases (five reports per year) from the main corpus were randomly selected to further investigate reporters’ use of voice in sentences including the verb tecavüz (rape). These cases were selected from reports of rape that took place in Turkey, did not result in murder, and involved male rapists and adult female survivors without disabilities. These criteria were adopted to eliminate the possible confounding effects of the presence of other serious crimes and the rapists’ and survivors’ demographic characteristics (i.e., their ages, genders, disabilities, and nationalities) on reporters’ language use. Additionally, only those cases which were still being handled by the police and had not been transferred on to the court system were included in the study. News stories tend to mimic the language of official documents that they are based on. To avoid conflation that might be generated by an interaction of the language used by the police and the court system, the study focused on cases that were at the stage of the police investigation. As none of the cases from 1997 fulfilled these criteria, reports from 1997 were not used in the following analysis.

Results and Discussion

As discussed above, previous research shows that as we move from ‘regular passives with by phrases’ to ‘agentless passives marked with experiencer subject verbs’, the agency and responsibility assigned to the rapist decreases while responsibility attributed to the survivor increases (Stanley, Robbins 1977; Katz 2006). Study 2 explored the ways the verb tecavüz (rape) was used in the news reports of sexual violence. As can be seen in Table 6, the verb was used 182 times in the corpus. The majority of its uses (64%) were in the active voice. In these active uses, which is what scholars of sexual violence advise, the responsibility for the rape has been attributed to the perpetrator and his culpability for the crime was emphasized.

Table 6. Frequencies of the use of the verb tecavüz (rape) in the active and passive voice.

Sample Size

182 (%)

Active

64

Passive

36

Total

100

In the remaining 36% of the cases, however, the verb tecavüz (rape) was passivized, thereby demoting or hiding the agency of the rapist and topicalizing the survivor. Reporters used the verb tecavüz (rape) in five different types of passive voices, each indexing different levels of agency for the rapist and the rape survivor. These different types of passives were:

  1. Passives with ‘by’ phrase:
    F.K.’ya, A. D. tarafindan, ters ilişki sonrasında tecavüz edildi.
    “F. K. was raped by A. D. following anal sex.”

  2. Agentless Passives:
    S. M.’ye (21) tecavüz edildi.
    “S. M. (21) was raped.”

  3. Experiencer subject verb with ‘by’ phrase: Notwithstanding its syntactic incorrectness, this hybrid form was one of the most commonly used passive voice types in the news reports.
    […]
    kimliği belirsiz 3 kişi tarafından tecavüze uğradı.
    “She got raped by three men whose identities are unknown.”

  4. Experiencer subject verb with information about the agent:
    Vücudunda morarmadık yer kalmayan, acılar içinde kıvranan, bu haldeyken eşinin tecavüzüne de uğrayan N. Ö. [..]”
    “N. Ö., who was bruised all around [and] was in severe pain, was also raped by her husband despite the state that she was in […].”

  5. Experiencer subject verb:
    Genç kadın ilişki teklifini kabul etmeyince tekme tokat dövülerek tecavüze uğradı.
    “[The] young woman who rejected [his] proposal for a relationship was severely beaten up and then raped.”

Table 7. Frequencies of the verb tecavüz (rape) used in different types of passive voice in the report body.

Sample Size

65 (%)

Passive with ‘by’ phrase

2

Agentless Passive

11

Experiencer subject verb with by phrase

17

Experiencer subject verb

31

Experiencer subject verb with rapist’s info.

40

Total

100

Table 7 shows how often reporters used these different types of passives in the reports. While ‘passive with by phrase’ was the least utilized type of passive voice at 2%, ‘experiencer subject verb with rapist’s information’ were most commonly used form at 40 %. In fact, different forms of ‘experiencer subject verb’ passives accounted for 88% of all uses of the verb tecavüz (rape) in the passive voice.

As we move away from the active voice, the level of agency and responsibility shifts from actors to patients. In the case of the depiction of sexual violence, the agency and responsibility of the perpetrator decrease as we move from ’passives with by phrases’ to ’agentless passives marked with experiencer subject verbs’ such as ’tecavüze uğra-’ (be/get raped). In this form of passive voice, the rapist appears in the sentence solely for ’being the owner of the rape’ (thus the use of the possessive and the dative suffixes). Furthermore, as the sentence is in the active voice, the survivor receives a larger portion of the responsibility and the blame. In other words, for the verb tecavüz (rape), the agency and responsibility assigned to the rapist get diminished as we move from example 1 to example 5 above. In contrast, the responsibility attributed to the survivor increases as one moves from example 1 to example 5.

49I also examined the reporters’ use of the verb tecavüz (rape) in their reports throughout the years to investigate if and how reporters’ conceptions of agency and responsibility of rapists and rape survivors have changed in the twenty years. Table 8 shows the results of the analysis which did not yield any trends.

Table 8. Reporters’ use of the verb tecavüz (rape) in the active and passive voice in news reports of rape.

 Sample Size

Active (%)

Passive (%)

 Ratio

1998

13

77

23

3.3

1999

12

67

33

2

2000

10

70

30

2.3

2001

12

67

33

2

2002

8

88

13

7

2003

12

75

25

3

2004

14

71

29

2.5

2005

10

50

50

1

2006

17

53

47

1.1

2007

17

65

35

1.8

2008

14

79

21

3.7

2009

19

63

37

1.7

2010

15

67

33

2

2011

9

33

67

0.5

2012

10

90

10

9

2013

15

53

47

1.1

2014

21

76

24

3.2

2015

11

64

36

1.8

2016

10

70

30

2.3

2017

8

100

0

0

Total

257

68

32

2.1

Study 3: Voice and Agency in the News Reports of Rape

50In this third study, I examined the agency and responsibility that reporters attributed to survivors and rapists in news reports of rape through an investigation of their use of the passive and active voice.

The Data

51The corpus of 100 cases from Study 2 was used in this analysis as well. Literature suggests space restrictions as a possible reason for the use of passive voice (Cotter 2010; Wanner 2009). Therefore, the analysis focused on reporters’ use of language in the main body of the news where reporters are relatively less constrained for space. Titles, leads (summary introductions), and direct reported speech were not included in the analysis. The unit of analysis was chosen to be the clause as it is the smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete proposition. QDA Miner 5.021 was used in the analysis.

Results and Discussion

52The analysis started with the identification of the clauses that have survivors or rapists as sentence subjects. A total of 1232 clauses met the requirement. As Table 9 shows, 593 of these clauses had the rape survivor as their subject and the remaining 630 clauses had the rapist as their subject. Seventy-six percent of these clauses were constructed in the active voice and the remaining 26% were constructed in the passive voice. In other words, reporters relayed the actions of both rape survivors and rapists predominantly in the active voice.

53However, the active to passive voice ratio of these clauses were different for female rape survivors and male rapists. This ratio was 5.25 for rapists and 2.6 for survivors (please see Tables 10 and 11). In other words, in the reports of rape analyzed, it was twice as likely for reporters to use passive voice when describing rape survivors’ actions than actions of the rapists.

Table 9. Frequencies of Active and Passive Voice used to Depict Acts in News Stories.

Survivor

Rapist

Total

Sample Size

593 (%)

630 (%)

1226 (%)

Active

72

84

78

Passive

28

16

22

Total

100

100

100

54The results might be partially explained by the inherent characteristics of the news stories of sexual violence. In rape, rapists are the agents of sexual violence and rape survivors are the patients. Thus, the use of active voice in rapists’ actions assigns the responsibility of the rape where it is undeniably due: on the rapist. Indeed, as discussed above, previous research on the issue advises reporters to use the active voice where the rapist is the sentence subject in their news stories on rape.

55Please note, however, that reporters did not relay all actions in the active voice in their reports. In fact, the passive voice was used 32% of the time in descriptions of the survivors’ actions and 16% of the time in describing the actions of the rapists. To better understand the use of passive voice in the reports, further analysis of the reporters’ use of passive and active voice in different sections of the news narratives was conducted.

56Reports of sexual violence tend to include information about the lives and actions of rape survivors and perpetrators not only during the rape but also before and after the violent act. To study the agency attributed to female rape survivors and male rapists in different contexts, the body of the news text was divided into three sections: pre-rape (sections of the news or information concerning daily life before rape), rape (sections that report rape), and post-rape (sections that relay information about the events that unfolded following rape).

57Table 10 shows the distribution of active and passive voice clauses that were used to describe acts concerning survivors in the pre-rape, rape, and post-rape sections of the news. A total of 593 clauses had the survivors as their subject. Reporters chose to present the actions of survivors in daily life before the rape in the active form 95% of the time. They presented 80% of survivors’ actions that took place post-rape in the active form. Only fifty-one percent of the survivors’ actions during rape, however, were reported in the active form. The way reporters depicted events during rape cast survivors as passive and powerless patients of rapists’ actions. However, in clauses narrating pre-rape and post-rape actions, survivors were primarily depicted as agents. In the post-rape sections, for example, women were mostly presented as empowered agents who sought help from the police and were brave enough to share their stories.

Table 10. Sentence voice used to depict survivors’ actions.

Part of News Report

Pre-rape

Rape

Post-rape

Total

Sample size

121 (%)

234 (%)

238 (%)

593 (%)

Active

95

51

80

72

Passive

5

49

20

28

Active/Passive Ratio

19

1

4

2.6

58As Table 11 shows, a total of 630 clauses had rapists as the sentence subjects. Acts concerning rapists before and during rape were reported almost exclusively in the active voice (91% and 100% respectively). However, rapists’ post-rape actions were reported in the active form only 43% of the time. These passive voice sentences that depict rapists’ actions in the aftermath of rape were primarily concerned with the legal actions against the assailants. Faced with the police or the legal system, rapists were presented as powerless patients of government agents’ actions.

Table 11. Sentence voice used to depict rapists’ actions.

Part of News Report

Pre-rape

Rape

Post-rape

Total

 Sample size

59 (%)

402 (%)

169 (%)

630 (%)

Active

91

100

43

84

Passive

9

0

57

16

Active/Passive Ratio

11

-

2

5.3

59Eighteen percent of all the clauses used in the rape section of the reports were constructed in the passive voice and all of these clauses had survivors as their subjects. That is to say, in 18% of the clauses describing the actual event of the rape, reporters chose to use passive voice, thereby hiding the rapists’ agency and responsibility. Passive voice clauses such as “34 years old Ayla Yılmaz was raped by a person who had a knife” direct the attention of the reader away from the crime and towards the survivor. This diversion casts the survivor passive and helpless and the rapist less responsible. Compare the sentence presented above with the following one: “Two of the thieves raped Z. K. in a wooded area.”

60Please note that the rape sections of the reports are mostly concerned with descriptions of rape and resistance to rape. Therefore, all of the actions could have been reported in the active voice where the rapists are assigned the responsibility for rape, and survivors are acknowledged for their agency in resistance.

Active and Passive Voice in Years

61I also analyzed the data for the distribution of reporters’ use of active and passive voice across the years. Tables 12 and 14 show frequencies of active and passive voice sentences used in reports of rape to describe rape survivors’ and rapists’ actions across the years. The data does not indicate a trend in the reporters’ use of the active or the passive voice across years: Rapists’ and survivors’ actions have been consistently and mostly reported in active voice throughout the years, casting them as agents responsible for their actions.

Table 12. Frequencies of active and passive voice used for describing survivors’ actions across the years.

Sample Size

Active (%)

Passive (%)

Active / Passive Voice

1998

34

68

32

2.1

1999

14

79

21

3.7

2000

11

55

45

1.2

2001

51

65

35

1.8

2002

19

84

16

5.3

2003

13

54

46

1.2

2004

29

72

28

2.6

2005

34

74

26

2.8

2006

54

61

39

1.6

2007

20

55

45

1.2

2008

21

62

38

1.6

2009

36

81

19

4.1

2010

27

63

37

1.7

2011

31

77

23

3.4

2012

17

82

18

4.7

2013

50

68

32

2.1

2014

49

76

24

3.1

2015

25

76

24

3.2

2016

38

95

5

19

2017

20

80

20

4

Total

593

425

 168

2.5

62As can be seen in Table 12, most of the clauses that had rape survivors as their subjects were constructed in the active form. However, there were a considerable number of passive voice clauses, as well. The active to passive voice ratio of the clauses has slightly but steadily increased each year from a ratio of 2.1 in 1998 to a ratio of 4 in 2017.

Table 13. Frequencies of active and passive voice used for describing rapists’ actions across the years.

Sample Size

Active %

Passive %

Active / Passive Voice

1998

32

91

9

9.7

1999

29

72

28

2.6

2000

28

79

21

3.7

2001

32

91

9

9.7

2002

31

71

29

2.4

2003

21

90

10

9.5

2004

29

79

21

3.8

2005

33

88

12

7.3

2006

56

86

14

6.0

2007

26

92

8

12.0

2008

23

83

17

4.8

2009

26

85

15

5.5

2010

41

83

17

4.9

2011

35

94

6

16.5

2012

31

90

10

9.3

2013

32

72

28

2.6

2014

43

81

19

4.4

2015

20

90

10

9.0

2016

28

75

25

3

2017

34

88

12

7.5

Total

630

529

101 

5.3

63Rapists’ actions were mostly described in the active voice (please see Table 13). The rate of passive voice used to report on rapists’ actions ranges between 6% (the lowest in 2011) and 29% (the highest in 2002). It is also the case that the rate between active and passive voice used in depicting rapists’ actions fluctuates throughout the years with no apparent pattern. This points to reporters’ unchanging conception of rapists as agents who are responsible and culpable for their crimes but at the same time, marks them as powerful agents.

64The attribution of agency and responsibility both to the rapist and the survivor, whilst at different phases of the event, agrees with the basic tenets of the neoliberal subjectivity and familism dominating the public discourse in contemporary Turkey. However, I would also argue that the depiction of women as empowered agents especially in the descriptions of events after the rape, is an outcome of successful activist work carried out by Women’s Rights organizations and their emphasis on individualism.

Study 4: Reporters’ Choice of Verbs and Their Implications

65Study 4 analyzed the corpus for the verbs that reporters chose to employ to describe rapists’ and survivors’ actions. This analysis is underlined by the assumption that along with the passive and active voice, verbs used in describing actions denote particular personality characteristics for the actors. Tables 14 and 15 show the findings.

66Through a content analysis of the verbs used by the reporters in active and passive clauses, I identified twelve classes of verbs. Ten of these classes denote specific characteristics of the survivors and rapists. Two of them highlight reporters’ biases towards rapists and survivors. Together, they help us understand the gender ideologies that inform the news reports of rape. I discuss and provide examples of these categories below.

Results & Discussion

Belittling of Harm

67Some of the verbs chosen by the reporters to refer to rapists’ actions hid the criminality of rapists’ intentions and the actual level of harm they caused. One report, for example, starts with the following introductory sentence:

“Shipyard worker İhsan Ç. (28) who was cruising around on his bike around 9:30 PM two night ago in Karamürsel, Kocaeli […]”

68However, in the following sections of the report, we learn that İhsan was not simply cruising but rather looking for women to rape. By using the verb ‘cruise’, the reporter hides the criminal intent behind the act, conceals the premeditation for rape, and reduces the culpability of the rapist.

69Consider the following that was taken from a rape section of another news story: "After taking the money, credit cards, and the watch […]." The verb ‘taking’ here normalizes the act as if these items were the actors’ to take or were given to him. Thereby, it hides the fact that the sentence is describing an act where the perpetrator robbed the woman after raping her.

70Reporters used most harm belittling verbs when describing rapists’ actions in the pre-rape and the rape phases of their news stories. Ten percent of the verbs that they used to describe the pre-rape actions of rapists and 15% of the verbs describing rapists’ actions during rape either diminished the harm that these actions caused or hid the criminal intent behind them. The use of this class of verbs reduces the responsibility and culpability of the rapists for their criminal behaviors.

Aggression

71This class of verbs was concerned with aggressive behaviors directed towards another. Sentences like “he started to exert violence towards his wife and children” were included in this class. The majority of the verbs in this category were used to describe rapists’ actions. Fifteen percent of the verbs were used to describe rapists’ behavior in the pre-rape sections, 52% of their actions were described in the rape sections, and 6% of their actions in post-rape sections were depicted through verbs indicating aggressive behavior.

Immorality/Criminality

72This class of verbs described criminal or immoral (i.e., deviating from the dominant moral norms) intent and behavior. Once again, the majority of this class of verbs were used to describe rapists’ actions. Reporters used this class of verbs to depict rapists’ actions in the pre-rape, rape, and post-rape sections of the reports at rates of 22%, 20%, and 5% (respectively). Only two percent of survivors’ actions were depicted by verbs indicating immorality or criminality.

Daily life

73Verbs that described survivors’ and rapists’ identities and actions in their daily lives were included in this category. Most of this class of verbs were used in the pre-rape and rape sections to describe the actions of survivors (72% and 19% respectively). These rates were 41% and 5% (pre-rape and rape respectively) for the rapists.

74Reporters mostly used this class of verbs to provide information about survivors’ social identities (e.g., “39 years old Z. K. who is married with three children and lives in Germany”), their conditions of living (e.g., “Nermin Kahya who lived alone in her summer house in Akbük, Didim”), and what they were doing right before the rape (e.g., “she prepared the costumes of the actors”).

75Please note that only the kinds of information that reporters deem to be related to the story that they are telling will make their way into the news reports. Therefore, the amount and the kind of information that is included in the news reports provide us with clues about the reporters’ gender ideologies. A discussion of the types of information that were included in these reports is beyond the scope of this article. However, the analysis shows that reporters provide more background information for the survivor than the rapist. This finding indicates that reporters find daily life and identities of survivors to be relevant to rape. Unfortunately, the inclusion of such information in the report indicates a belief in the rape myth that what women do or who they are are relevant to the violent crime of rape.

Empowerment

76A total of 60% of survivors actions following the rape and 6% of their behavior before rape were depicted through the use of verbs that indicate empowerment.

77A small portion of the empowerment indicating verbs concerned the betterment of the family. Only four percent of the verbs that were used to describe survivors’ actions emphasized their families. Most of these sentences depicted survivors as agents through active sentence structures and agentive verbs. One example of this class of verbs can be found in the following description taken from a news report: “despite the painful experiences she endured, M. S. built a two-people life for herself and her daughter […].”

78An overwhelming majority of verbs from this category concerned legal actions such as seeking help from the police. Forty-five percent of survivors’ actions after rape were reported through the use of legal action related empowerment indicating verbs. In a sociocultural context where rape survivors and their family members face stigmatization, reporters’ depiction of survivors’ actions through agentive verbs is an important contribution to the public discourse and a positive influence on the public opinion concerning rape.

79In addition, twelve percent of all survivor actions were reported in verbs that indicate agentive behavior concerning individual benefit and betterment. As was the case in previous empowerment indicating verbs, almost all of the verbs of this class were used to depict the actions of survivors after rape.

Emotional State

80Albeit rarely, reporters used verbs indicating emotional states such as ‘devastated’, ‘cried’, etc. Almost all of these verbs were used to describe survivors’ actions. Emotional state indicating verbs were used 31 times and 30 of these verbs described survivors’ actions. The only time a rapist’s action was described by a verb denoting an emotional state, the verb used was ‘regret’.

Kindness

81Five of the clauses from our corpus described acts that involved some type of kindness. Interestingly four of them were depictions of rapists’ action and were as follows:

“He gave up the idea (of killing her) upon seeing her kid”
“He also gave her pain killers so that she would not feel her pain”
“[after raping the woman] he untied her hands and eyes”
“[after raping the university student] he let her go”

Naïve

82In their depictions of events, reporters also highlighted that the survivors naively believed in the pretenses of their rapists and got into their cars to provide directions, opened the door and let them into their apartments, befriended them on the internet, got married to them through religious ceremonies, etc. Seven percent of the survivors’ actions before the rape and 6% of their actions during the rape were reported by using the class of verbs that indicate naiveté on the part of the rape survivors.

Powerlessness

83Reporters depicted both survivors and rapists as disempowered through their choice of verbs. However, while survivors were depicted as disempowered 57% of the time in rape sections and 26% of the time in post-rape sections, rapists were depicted as powerless only 10% of the time in the pre-rape and 65% of the time in the post-rape sections. Survivors and rapists were depicted as powerless in relation to different groups of people. Survivors were powerless against men (their fathers, brothers, bosses, rapists, etc.). Rapists, on the other hand, were depicted as powerless against the law enforcement agents.

Resistance

84Verbs that indicate resistance were classified into this category. While women were depicted as resisting agents mostly in the rape sections through the use of this class of verbs (10%), rapists were depicted as resistant in the post-rape sections (13%).

85Reporters employed different classes of verbs in describing survivors’ actions across different phases of their reports. Survivors’ agency was highlighted in descriptions of their lives before the rape. However, they were frequently depicted as helpless during the rape and occasionally in the post-rape segments of the reports. In contrast, in the post-rape segments, rape survivors were presented as emotional but at the same time empowered agents. Their empowered agency was especially foregrounded when in the company of and seeking help from state agents. Notice that the characterization of female rape survivors as naïve, emotional, and powerless agents who get empowered by the help of policeman fits well with the neo-conservative ideal.

86In describing rapists’ actions, reporters used verbs that depict rapists as aggressive and amoral, but also helpless against the police and legal system. They also belittled the consequences of immoral and aggressive actions by employing morally and emotionally neutral verbs.

Table 14. Frequencies of survivor related verbs that indicate characteristics and states.

Survivor

Pre-Rape

Rape

Post-Rape

Sample Size

121 (%)

234 (%)

238 (%)

Harm Belittling

0.5

Aggression

1

0.8

Immorality / Criminality

2

Daily life

72

19

2

Empowerment - Family

1

3

Empowerment – Legal Action

1

1

45

Empowerment – Individual

6

2.5

12

Emotional State

2

3

8

Kindness

0.5

Naiveté

7

6

Powerless

8

57

26

Resistance

1

10

3

Total

100

100

100.3

Table 15. Frequencies of survivor related verbs that indicate characteristics and states.

Rapist

Pre-Rape

Rape

Post-Rape

Sample Size

59 (%)

402 (%)

169 (%)

Harm Belittling

10

15

 

Aggression

15

53

6

Immorality / Criminality

22

20

5

Daily life

41

5

8

Empowerment - Family

 

 

 

Empowerment – Legal Action

 

 

2

Empowerment – Individual

 

 

1

Emotional State

 

0.2

 

Kindness

 

1

 

Naiveté

 

0.2

 

Powerless

10

1

65

Resistance

2

5

13

Total

100

100.4

100

87Taken together, the distribution pattern of active and passive voice use in the telling of events and the implications of the verbs used in the reports are also suggestive of a script: Survivor who are powerful enough agents in their lives, sometimes due to a fault of their own such as running away from home, getting into cars of strangers, or going to houses of people whom they have befriended online, find themselves helpless and victimized. However, if they survive, they regain their power through the help of state agents such as the police and legal system; they build themselves new lives as the assailants get punished.

Conclusion

88Media reports are informed by and reflect the ideological commitments of reporters and media outlets. In other words, media reports not only reflect but also refract the reality that they are reporting on. Reports of rape are no exception. Reporters’ and media outlets’ gender ideologies are reflected in the language of the reports of sexual violence. Accordingly, a discourse analysis of these reports informs us about the gender norms promoted by the reports and their intended impact on the readers’ conceptions of gender and rape. In addition, a critical discussion of these ideologies which situate them in their sociocultural contexts provides us with clues as to how media discourses function as political tools.

89In this research, I examined the gender ideologies that inform the Hürriyet’s news reports of rape as evidenced in reporters’ use of active and passive voice and choice of verbs. Previous literature demonstrates that reporting rape through passive voice hides rapists as the agents of rape, reduces their responsibility, and diminishes their culpability (Bohner 2001). Furthermore, passive voice focuses attention on the survivor (Frazer, Miller 2009; Nagar 2016) and increases readers’ propensity to believe in the rape myths and the blame they attribute to the survivors (Henley et al. 1995).

90Through four complementary studies, I analyzed the gender ideologies that underlie the reports of sexual violence published in the Hürriyet between 1997-2017. The analysis showed that the number of news reports on rape has increased significantly since 1997. This increase points to a growing public awareness of and an interest in rape cases. In that, it highlights a shift in the social attitude and consciousness about rape in Turkey. Traditionally, in Turkey, women are considered as symbols of family honor (Kandiyoti 1991). Therefore, their chastity, access to the public realm, and behaviors are scrutinized strictly by men and women alike. Under the traditional family-oriented gender regime, rape is considered to be stigmatizing for survivors as well as their families. Hence, they are kept as secrets hidden away from family, friends, neighbors, and state agencies alike. Against the backdrop of this traditional ideology, the steady increase in the number of reports on rape points to a change in the mainstream conceptions of rape and gender ideology.

91To capture the gender ideologies that inform the Hürriyet’s reports of rape, I further analyzed the use of the verb tecavüz (rape) in the reports. Reporters mostly used the verb tecavüz (rape) in the active voice in their reports. Thus, they assigned responsibility and culpability for rapes to where they are due: to the rapist. This predominance in the use of the active voice was also true for depictions of actions beyond the rape. Reporters mostly used the active voice to describe the actions of rape survivors and rapists, portraying both women and men as agents responsible for their actions. As most writing manuals and education in journalism emphasize the preference of the active voice over the passive in news reports, this finding is valuable but not unexpected. For our purposes, however, the persistent use of the passive voice in the reports, despite the overwhelming emphasis on the preference of the active voice, is interesting and most informative.

92Reporters frequently employed passive voice. One-third of all the uses of the verb tecavüz (rape) was passivized and almost one-fourth of all the actions of survivors and rapists were reported in the passive voice. Through passivization used in the sections of the reports that focus on the events during the rape, survivors were cast as powerless victims of men’s aggression. In contrast, in the sections that focus on events after the rape, rapists’ actions were mostly depicted in the passive voice that characterized them as powerless in opposition to government agencies.

93To put it differently, in more than one-third of their use of the verb tecavüz (rape) and almost one-fourth of their depictions of survivors’ and rapists’ actions, reporters (consciously or non-consciously) downgraded the agency of the rapists for the rape, assigned responsibility to the survivors for it, and influenced their readers’ conceptions of the survivors’ responsibility for rape and the harm that was exerted upon them. It is important to note that reporters did not have to employ passivization at all in their news stories of rape. Rather, rapes could have been told in the active voice in their totality thereby presenting the rapists as responsible and culpable for the rape and the survivors as resisting agents.

94Reporters’ choice of verbs to describe actions further highlights the difference in the ways that they portray survivors and rapists. To begin with, news reports included more information about the daily lives and identities of the rape survivors than the rapists’ establishing a link between the rape and the social and personal characteristics of the survivors. An implication of such a link in the reports reflects reporters’ conceptions of rape. At the same time, these implied links strengthen the rape myth that only certain types of women get raped and that they are also responsible for the rape.

95Most of the Hürriyet’s reports included in the study shared a script in their telling of the event of rape. Through the selective deployment of verbs in their narratives, reporters depicted male rapists as aggressive criminal agents who were helpless against the police and the legal system. Female survivors, on the other hand, were cast as autonomous agents who became helpless victims of rape (sometimes due to their naiveté) and reclaimed their agency with the help of the police and the legal system. This script highlights an underlying conception of power hierarchy hidden in these reports: men have power over women and the state and its agents over everyone else.

96Taken together, the analysis points to a gender ideology that remains hidden in the grammar of the Hürriyet’s reports of rape. This ideology conceives of women as individual agents but imagines them to be at the bottom of a hierarchically structured power distribution within the society. In this imagined order, women risk becoming powerless recipients of men’s aggression if they stray from the "sensible" ways of behaving. This conception agrees significantly with the neoliberal familism which takes women to be autonomous yet docile and virtuous agents who willingly submit to structures of domination (Kandiyoti 2016).

97The increase in the number of Hürriyet’s reports of rape between 1997 and 2017 is indicative of a transformation of the social conceptions of rape and gender ideologies in Turkey. As I discussed above, this is an outcome of the activism carried out by women’s rights groups. Through such activism sexual violence against women gained visibility and became a topic of importance in public discourse. The responsibility and culpability of rape shifted onto the rapist. Yet, the general picture emerging from the analysis suggests that ideals of neoliberal familism lurk in the language of the news reports subtly impacting readers’ conceptions of rape and gender ideologies.

98Neoliberalism became one of the dominant ideologies in Turkey within the last twenty years casting all other discourses of gender answerable to itself. As a counterforce, the women’s organizations have been working towards the economic, social, and legal equality of women in Turkey with important gains (for a summary of their achievements see Kandiyoti 2016). Gender equality in media discourse constitutes an important component of this fight. Through academic works and workshops geared towards the education of reporters (see, for example, Eldén, Ekal 2015) and translation of works on the issue into Turkish (Elford et al. 2017), women’s rights organizations have been impacting a change in media discourses of rape.

99As this analysis demonstrated, there is still a need for improvement in media discourses of rape in Turkey. Reports of rape should highlight the violence embedded in rape and the criminal responsibility of the rapist while preventing re-victimization and stigmatization of the survivors. On the one hand, this requires a careful study of the language that the reporters use at the levels of syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. On the other hand, it requires training of reporters to reflexively attend to the gender ideologies that they hold onto and consistently use the active voice to depict rapists’ and survivors’ actions in their reports of sexual violence.

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Notes

1 The passive morpheme in Turkish has three morphologically conditioned variants:
- n attaches to stems ending with vowels (e.g., kapa ‘close’, kapa-n ‘be closed’); 
-
in attaches to stems ending with the consonant -l (e.g., bil ‘know’, bil-in ‘be known);
-
il attaches to all other stems (e.g., sev ‘love’, sev-il ‘be loved’).

2 The agent in a passive construction can be also expressed by attaching the suffix -ca to the agentive noun phrase. For example:
Kadın komisyonu bakanlıkça kuruldu.
Commission on Women’s Issues was created by the Government
.

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References

Electronic reference

Sevda Numanbayraktaroğlu, « The Grammar of Gender Ideology: The Press Coverage of Sexual Violence in Turkey and the Passive Voice  », European Journal of Turkish Studies [Online], 28 | 2019, Online since , connection on 14 July 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/6359 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/ejts.6359

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About the author

Sevda Numanbayraktaroğlu

Assistant Instructional Professor, University of Chicago
snumanba@uchicago.edu

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Copyright

© Some rights reserved / Creative Commons license

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